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October 2023: Ascend News


Ascend Afghanistan is Operational

“We need to show them that they themselves are strong. You can do it yourself, you can live your own life. Learning is always available one way or another.” - Marjan, Ascend Trainer

September was a big month for Ascend Afghanistan. Eleven Instructors welcomed the first cohort of 40 participants to the program. These girls, ages 15-24, are divided into a morning and afternoon session, both which take place face to face at the Ascend Center. Most of the training for the month centered around basic mental health care and life skills training such as positive communication and stress management. In four months, the current cohort will graduate and make room for a new group of participants. In this way, Ascend expects to reach 120 girls in the first twelve months.

Women’s activities have been severely restricted by the government and surveys reveal high rates of depression and suicide among Afghan women and girls. Joining the Ascend program offers an opportunity to gather with other like minded women, to engage in learning and personal development, and care for their own mental health. Currently upon graduation there are not many outward facing opportunities for women to engage. However, the knowledge and skills gained are useful immediately at home and in private life, and can be shared with other girls in support of their mental health and to keep a community of women and women leaders alive, growing and supported.

Your support keeps girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan engaged and growing. Thank you for investing in the mission.


Pakistan Instructors Engage Community

In September, the Pakistan Instructor Trainees kicked off community service and outreach projects aimed at spreading the word about Ascend’s work and engaging the local community in outdoor and leadership activities. They’ve already reached upwards of 1200 community members.

The month began with a hike, organized by Ascend trainees, with a local school for children with hearing impairments. Our instructor trainees led the students on a hike and trail cleanup followed by games and activities to build teamwork and communication skills. Later in the month, trainees organized a Clean & Green project with four local girls’ schools. Ascend taught the participants about leave no trace principles and conducted a park clean up.

Trainees received professional development in meetings with the Tourism Department; ecology lessons from a top professor at the local university; and a training on leadership delivered by a Major who now specializes in communication. Turning this knowledge into action, the trainees visited five girls' schools where they led sessions in environmental stewardship and leave no trace, complemented with hands-on activities.

Ascend spent three days at a province-wide Career Fest followed by a booth for World Tourism Day showcasing the program and its pathway to outdoor career options. Participants eagerly listened to Ascend trainees explain how to use the variety of climbing equipment on display and seemed excited by the possibility of a non-traditional career. Hundreds of prospective participants passed through Ascend’s booth on these days.

As if that wasn’t enough, the trainees spent five days rock climbing working on rappelling, belay and anchor skills, as well as practiced yoga and exercise circuits several times each week, honing their teaching techniques with each other.


New Master Trainer Brings Fresh Enthusiasm to Ascend

Meet Emily Cavanagh, Ascend’s current Master Trainer. Emily arrived in Pakistan at the end of September and has jumped right into providing hands-on, detailed training for the Instructor Trainees in Gilgit-Baltistan and (virtually) in Kabul.

Emily has worked in outdoor education since 2015 and has a deep appreciation for the transformative power of wild places. She works predominantly in snow covered, alpine or glaciated environments, whether in boots, snowshoes or on skis. She is passionate about the empowering potential of climbing and mountaineering, as folks gain competence and confidence through skill building and hands-on experience with risk assessment and decision making, and are therefore more equipped to handle a variety of challenges in everyday life. Emily is a certified Single Pitch climbing instructor, AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide, Leave No Trace Master Educator and 200-hour trained Yoga Instructor.

Emily has been in Pakistan working with the Ascend team for just under a week, but already they have set team goals for community engagement events during the month of October;

climbed at multiple locations, teaching and practicing more advanced skills to prepare for the instructor trainees’ upcoming SPI course; led yoga classes; and set personal SMART goals with each instructor trainee so that they can track progress and achieve greater gains.

In addition, Emily is guiding our Afghan instructors via video conference, supplementing lessons and providing training tools in all areas of the curriculum, particularly the mind-body connection.

We are excited to have Emily’s experience and expertise for the next several months as instructors continue to grow and learn, making them more competent leaders for tomorrow’s participants.


Alumnae Updates


With much excitement and anticipation, five alumnae living in Vancouver and Calgary met up for a weekend of camping and climbing in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. With help from local friends, businesses and the Ascend Alumnae Association, the women were able to gather face to face for a weekend of camaraderie and sisterhood. Many of the alumnae had not spent time together in over a year. Alum Manizha said, “This trip provided a great opportunity for [us] to get back to climbing and the outdoors…and had a positive impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of [those who came]”


Exciting Ways to Support Women

It may seem far away but the end of the year is creeping up on us. We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude for the many ways you have supported women through the program. At Ascend, we recognize and train participants on the value of team and what it means to be a team player. The way you show up for us exemplifies those qualities daily. None of this could move forward without you and we are forever grateful for your investments of time, talent, and treasure.

End of Year Giving

As you begin to plan for your end of the year giving (and we know you have many worthy endeavors to support) please consider a gift of stock, crypto, real estate or giving through your Donor Advised Fund. Ascend can make each of those options easy and seamless. Look for more details on our website here.

Employer Matching

So many of you generously give to support Ascend’s program, but what if you could double or even triple your gift? Many employers offer to match donations made by their employees. It is usually as simple as asking your employer if they match gifts and completing a form. As you think about your end of the year giving, consider asking your employer about matching your giving and expand your reach.


Upcoming Events & Apparel

Ascend! Film Screening in Virginia

Join Ascend on Sunday, October 29th at 6:30 pm the Old Town Patagonia (Alexandria , VA) for a laid-back gathering to view the Patagonia film Ascend!. The event is free but space is limited, please register your attendance at our Eventbrite link below.

Ascend Store is Open!

Check out Ascend’s new merch at BONFIRE. Take care of all your holiday gift shopping and support Ascend’s mission at the same time!

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